Hounslow Council has recently taken a dive into the cloud by selecting online storage and collaboration firm Box for its document management and collaboration needs.
It's a surprising move for a public-sector body because Box doesn't yet operate any European data centres - they're all in the US. In fact, Box CEO Aaron Levie last month told Computing that this fact means that "we might not be able to sell to the UK government yet".
But Anthony Kemp, director of corporate resources at Hounslow Council, explains that he's intending to put more data into the cloud in future, and the Box deal is just the first step.
"We decided that the cloud market had matured so now was the time to go for it, and we want to be infrastructure-free in five years' time," says Kemp. "We have some systems with sensitive information, so five years gives us time to think how we can implement that move. But we'll migrate the bulk of our systems in the next two to three years.
"Where possible we'll plump straight for multi-tenanted public cloud SaaS. That gives us reduced operating costs - analysts say we should see a 50 per cent cost reduction - and it makes our business more flexible. It puts an end to the ‘where do you want to work problem'. We don't talk about BYOD any more; you can work anywhere any time."
He adds that this concerted cloud adoption enables the council to work with its partners better as documents and plans can be shared more easily.
"We have an aggressive strategy to move all line-of-business systems in the next six months. We have 500 different product lines, so moving it all is an enormous and sophisticated programme."
Kemp explains that he has seen local government buying large business applications for many years, buying the same components over and again. "And that seems daft, so we want to be platform-based, then we can build functionality on top of that. Box gives that capability, and we've also signed a deal with Salesforce for the same reasons."
Kemp's vision is to allow users and partners to collaborate and share securely, with the flexibility to be able to use any device. But while the platforms have to be intuitive and available anywhere - common traits for consumer applications - they also need to enterprise ready.
"Anyone can download Box and use it at home. But which of these products can scale into the enterprise? Does it have a proper roadmap to tackle the bigger business issues like sharing data with partners? Box offered that functionality. Its enterprise features are evolving, it's not just something which sits there dormant."
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